Uncertainty for Ruby and Rails despite changes

Zed rails, Bray dizzy

Ruby on Rails teaser

The launch of a low-cost Ruby on Rails integrated development environment from SapphireSteel Software based on Microsoft's Visual Studio comes at a turning point for both the Ruby language and its associated Rails framework. But quite what the turning point will be is open to question.

On the one hand Sun's director of web technologies Tim Bray predicts a healthy future for Ruby and Rails - while also acknowledging that they could face some stiff competition from alternatives. On the other hand Joe Gregario at BitWorking maintains that Ruby and Rails peaked in mid 2007 and, citing various Web 2.0 trend statistics, reckons its downhill from now on.

The flak attack on the Ruby and Rails communities notched up a level with a vitriolic rant last week from Mongrel creator Zed Shaw who declared Rails a "ghetto" populated by - well, according to Zed at least, some not very nice people. The community responded at length.

The Ruby cause has not been helped by high-profile failures such as Derek Civers of CD Baby revealing last September that he had abandoned a re-write of his site with Ruby on Rails and gone back to PHP scripting. And earlier in the year Twitter blamed Ruby on Rails for degraded performance on its site.

The main grouses appear to be about performance and the scalability of applications built with Ruby and Rails.

There is some evidence that performance has improved with Rails 2.0 released just before Christmas and scalability is clearly no problem if you have God (and Zed Shaw) on your side.

The availability of full versions of Ruby for Microsoft's .NET in the form of IronRuby from Microsoft and Ruby.NET, launched in November 2007, should also help increase uptake of Ruby.

But as Tim Bray notes in his positive forecast for Ruby and Rails, there will be pressure on both during the coming year. Alternatives to Rails such as Ramaze clearly appeal to developers and there is still strong support for established languages such as PHP and Java.®

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